How to Pick the Right Interior Door: A Step-by-Step Guide

First impressions matter. That’s why interior doors, though overlooked by many novice interior designers, are so important. The right interior door can set the mood of a space before you even enter it.

In this comprehensive guide, we offer tips for selecting an interior door that’ll take your master bedroom or home office from tiresome to tasteful.

INTERIOR DOOR FUNDAMENTALS

Before rushing off to the hardware store and swooning over French doors, you’ll first need to gather some important information.

DOOR TYPE

When shopping for interior doors, you’ll find two different types:

  • Pre-Hung: A pre-hung door is already attached by hinges to a three-sided door frame. It’s ready to be installed with no fuss.
  • Slab: A slab door is a cheaper – though less convenient – alternative. This door has yet to be framed and lacks all the necessary hardware like a doorknob, metal strike plate, shims, and hinges

HANDING

To order the correct door, you’ll need to determine handing. To do this, stand on the outside of the door. (For instance, stand in the hallway outside your bedroom door.) If the hinges are on the left side, your door is left-handed. If the hinges are on the right side, your door is right-handed.

SIZE & MEASUREMENT

To determine the size of your pre-hung door, measure the width and height of the rough opening (the space where the old door was). You’ll also need to measure the interior door jamb thickness.

To replace a slab door, simply measure the width, height, and thickness of the old door. Keep in mind that standard interior doors are at least 80 inches tall and 24, 28, 30, 32, or 36 inches wide.

Is all of this making your head swim? When you hire a general contractor like Portico, a team of professionals will handle the technical stuff (like measuring a door) for you.

STEP 1: PICK YOUR DOOR STYLE

After wading through those technicalities, now comes the fun part: shopping. Any big-box hardware store will offer a bevy of interior door styles. The right one for your space depends on the room’s aesthetic.

BARN DOORS

Barn doors are versatile. They can add a shabby chic look to characteristically country powder rooms but also a modern flair to a contemporary pantry. Most of these doors glide along an upper rail, though some have a bottom track.

POCKET DOORS

Pocket doors work wonders in small spaces. When fully open, these sliding doors disappear into a compartment in the adjacent wall. This is great for tight bathroom remodels or small mudrooms where there simply isn’t enough space to accommodate the swing of a door.

ACCORDION DOORS

Rather than swing on hinges, an accordion door opens by folding back in sections. Not only does this door option offer a fun, mid-century flair, but it’s also space-saving.

The downside? Since accordion doors aren’t great at drowning out television noise or the sound of hairdryers, they’re best used as room partitions or closet doors.

FRENCH DOORS

If you want to add a traditional or country feel to your home, consider French doors. This stylish option has multiple lites (panes of glass) that extend the full length of the door. Typically, French doors come in pairs.

Though French doors offer little in the way of privacy, they do allow lots of light to enter a space. Because of this, they’re a classic choice for dividing communal spaces like the living and dining room.

BIFOLD DOORS

Bifold doors have symmetrical panels that fold out and onto themselves when opened. Similar to accordion doors, bifold doors are best for closets, laundry rooms, utility rooms, or as room dividers.

BYPASS & SLIDING DOORS

A bypass door has two or more sections that essentially stack over each other when opened. This option is best for closets, pantries, or laundry rooms.

SALOON & CAFE DOORS

Do you want to add some rustic whimsy to your space? If so, consider a saloon or cafe door. These doors visually define a space without boxing it in entirely. Since they use a special gravity hinge, they’re also easy to open and close when you’re carrying plates of food or drinks.

STEP 2: SELECT YOUR DOOR MATERIAL

Interior doors come in a wide range of materials. The best one for your space depends on your budget and style.

MOLDED COMPOSITE DOORS

Affordable and low-maintenance, molded composite doors are made from a variety of synthetic materials like particleboard and glass fiber. They’re then covered in a veneer that looks convincingly like wood.

WOOD DOORS

Nothing beats the traditional look and feel of real wood. The species best-suited for interior doors include:

  • Alder: As one of the strongest and cheapest hardwoods on the market, alder is a popular choice among homeowners.
  • Poplar: Poplar offers the longevity of alder with a finer grain. Because of this, it can be painted.
  • Red Oak: Known for its high-shock resistance, red oak is durable enough to withstand an angry door slam (or two). Plus, it looks great when stained.
  • White Pine: With a subtle wood grain, white pine offers a traditional aesthetic. It’s also hard-wearing, even in high-traffic parts of the home.

ENGINEERED WOOD DOORS

Are you hiring a general contractor to convert your musty and dark basement into a rental space? If so, opt for engineered wood. While traditional wood materials will warp when exposed to high humidity, engineered wood is made from crosshatched plywood that can tolerate moisture.

PVC DOORS

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) doors are made from strong but lightweight plastic. These doors are water- and fire-resistant. However, lower-quality PVC doors can off-gas dangerous volatile organic compounds.

GLASS DOORS

A glass door isn’t suitable for all spaces (think: bathrooms and bedrooms). However, this material can let light into a boxy living room or dark home office.

STEP 3: DETERMINE THE CORE TYPE

As you stroll the aisles of your local hardware store, you’ll be faced with yet another decision: core type.

SOLID WOOD DOORS

A solid wood door is exactly what it sounds like – a door made exclusively of wood. Durable and long-lasting, these doors up the resale value of your home and are wonderful at drowning out noise. However, they’re expensive.

SOLID CORE DOORS

With a solid core door, the inside is made from sturdy engineered wood. These doors offer good sound resistance and won’t warp when exposed to moisture. However, they can be very heavy.

HOLLOW CORE DOORS

A hollow core door isn’t exactly hollow. Rather, it has a honeycomb cardboard interior that’s wrapped in a veneer. This keeps weight and cost down. The downside? Hollow core doors aren’t well insulated.

STEP 4: DECIDE BETWEEN FLUSH OR PANEL

A flush door has a flat, smooth surface. It’s constructed using a single piece of wood and is not divided into any panels. Comparatively, a panel door is manufactured using stiles (vertical frame elements) and rails (horizontal frame elements). These features create decorative panels.

WHEN TO CHOOSE A FLUSH DOOR

Since the surface of a flush door is clean and smooth, this style adds a modern touch. These doors are more soundproof and scratch- and stain-resistant than panel doors. Plus, they’re cheaper than panel doors.

WHEN TO CHOOSE A PANEL DOOR

Panel doors offer a more ornate and traditional aesthetic. The panels can be flat or raised and rectangular or square in pattern. However, some panels incorporate elaborate arches. This detail work adds a certain “wow” factor but can be hard to clean.

STEP 5: CHOOSE THE DOOR FINISH

The finish you select depends on the level of customization you want.

PRIMED DOORS

Primed doors are great for homeowners who want to add a pop of unique color. Doused in a material that seals the wood, these doors are ready to be painted by your contractor.

STAINED DOORS

A stained door highlights the natural grain and charming imperfections of the wood. Manufacturers provide a myriad of stains from a light early American to a dark jacobean.

PREFINISHED DOORS

A prefinished door is exactly what it sounds like: a door that’s ready for install. That means it has been painted or stained. The doorknob and hinge screw holes have also been precut.

UNFINISHED DOORS

An unfinished door has already been sanded, but it still needs to be stained or painted.

STEP 6: EXPLORE DOOR HARDWARE

Door hardware encompasses the handle and all locking mechanisms. Though mostly practically, hardware can add a stylish flair to your home, as well.

TYPES OF DOOR HANDLES

There are two main styles of door handles: levers and knobs.

  • Lever: Since door levers are easier to operate than knobs, they’re ideal for homeowners with dexterity issues. As for style, levers work best in modern or contemporary spaces.
  • Knob: Knobs provide a more traditional aesthetic. They come in a variety of finishes, from brushed brass to antique glass.

DOOR HARDWARE BY ENTRY TYPE

The hardware you choose is also influenced by where the interior door is located in your home.

Privacy: Privacy door handles and knobs lock and are meant for bathrooms, bedrooms, and home offices.

  • Passage: Passage door handles and knobs have no locking features and are meant for spaces like closets and laundry rooms.
  • Dummy: Dummy knobs are purely decorative – there are no mechanical components. These knobs are meant for accordion doors, bifold doors, and other room partitions.

DOOR HARDWARE BY MATERIAL TYPE

To protect your investment, choose high-quality hardware materials such as:

  • Brass: Hardy and durable, brass is perfect for damp environments like bathrooms and basements.
  • Bronze: Bronze adds a handmade feel and is perfect for rustic homes.
  • Stainless Steel: For a modern touch, choose stainless steel accents in your kitchen remodel or powder room.
  • Brushed Nickel: One of the most popular styles, brushed nickel is very durable and maintains its appearance long after installation.

OPEN THE DOOR TO A LICENSED & TRAINED PROFESSIONAL

Choosing the right interior door for your master bedroom or powder room can be very overwhelming. Most hardware stores are filled with door options, from stained white pine pre-hung doors to unfinished slab doors. But even when you find a door that suits your space, installation can be laborious and confusing.

The solution? Call the licensed and trained professionals at Team Portico. As a general contractor in Charlotte, Portico can help you search through the hundreds, if not thousands, of interior door options. Once you find a door that matches your style and budget, our professionals can install it.

Interested in learning more about what Portico can do for you? Contact us today!.